Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether brain activity of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients during voluntary motor actions differs from that of healthy individuals.
Methods: Eight CFS patients and 8 age- and gender-matched healthy volunteers performed isometric handgrip contractions at 50% maximal voluntary contraction level. They first performed 50 contractions with a 10 s rest between adjacent trials--'Non-Fatigue' (NFT) task. Subsequently, the same number of contractions was performed with only a 5 s rest between trials--'Fatigue' (FT) task. Fifty-eight channels of surface EEG were recorded simultaneously from the scalp. Spectrum analysis was performed to estimate power of EEG frequency in different tasks. Motor activity-related cortical potential (MRCP) was derived by triggered averaging of EEG signals associated with the muscle contractions.
Results: Major findings include: (i) Motor performance of the CFS patients was poorer than the controls. (ii) Relative power of EEG theta frequency band (4-8 Hz) during performing the NFT and FT tasks was significantly greater in the CFS than control group (P < 0.05). (iii) The amplitude of MRCP negative potential (NP) for the combined NFT and FT tasks was higher in the CFS than control group (P < 0.05) (iv) Within the CFS group, the NP was greater for the FT than NFT task (P<0.01), whereas no such difference between the two tasks was found in the control group.
Conclusions: These results clearly show that CFS involves altered central nervous system signals in controlling voluntary muscle activities, especially when the activities induce fatigue.
Significance: Physical activity-induced EEG signal changes may serve as physiological markers for more objective diagnosis of CFS.